Press on Environment and Wildlife
Ministry versus Tribal Right’s Bill: Tribal Affairs Environment Ministry (Issue of the week, July Week 4 (2005)) Coming around to accepting the inevitability of the Tribal Rights Bill, Environment Minister A Raja said he is not against granting rights to tribal but differs with the tribal ministry on who should table the bill. Insisting that the legislation should be drafted and implemented by his ministry, and not by the tribal affairs ministry, Mr Raj said (The Pioneer, Wednesday, July 20, 2005), "There are no two opinions on granting rights to tribals. The question is who (should table the bill in Parliament) and in what manner (should it be implemented)." The Tribal Affairs Ministry had approached the Union Cabinet for a go-ahead to introduce the Scheduled Tribe (Recognition of Rights) Bill, 2005, but was withheld in the previous session of Parliament. The environment ministry has been unhappy with some provisions of the existing draft of the tribal Bill. Mr Raja felt that since the bill will have a direct bearing on the forests and wildlife, his ministry would be well placed to see through its implementation. "We are entrusted to look after the forests. So anything that immediately affects the forests and wildlife should come under our purview," Mr Raja argued. He did not indicate when the bill will be placed in the House. Which ministry will be entrusted the responsibility of drafting and piloting the Bill in Parliament will be looked into by a group of ministers (GoM) headed by Home Minister Shivraj Patil. Besides Mr Raja, others in the GoM include Tribal Affairs minister PR Kyndiah, Water Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Health minister Anbumani Ramadoss. The tribal bill has severed the pitch between conservationists who believe in keeping the forests pristine and ridding people from the protected areas versus those who believe in involving the tribal in wildlife conservation. The Environment Ministry has a stated position not to forcibly evict tribals from protected areas, but had not gone as far as legalising land rights of tribals. The tribal affars ministry felt that the environment ministry will only pay lip-service to tribal cause, but buckle under pressure from a section of wildlife activists and not legislate a one-time settlement of land rights. The bill has also acquired political colours after tribal parliamentarians across the political spectrum lobbied with the Government to right 'historical wrongs' to the tribals. The Left, which has extended outside support to the Government, has also been pressing for introduction of the Bill.
Delhi Zoo hopes to have the long awaited chimpanzee offspring (July Week 4 (2005)) After over seven months of concerted effort, Delhi zoo’s last big effort to usher in a bundle of joy in the chimpanzee enclosure is finally bearing fruit. Reeta, the young female chimp, which was procured from Chandigarh’s Chhatbir zoo in December last year, has apparently gone into a ‘heat’ period, thereby increasing the chances of mating. Said Delhi zoo director B S Bonal: “Rustam and Ruby have been together for a long time. So maybe that’s why they were not getting attracted to each other. Then we got another female chimp, Reeta, from Chandigarh and we were sincerely hoping that things would work. But all this while, they were simply not getting the desired stimulant. This may have happened due to many factors like climatic change, biological factors, old age, etc.” Zoo officials are upbeat now the Reeta has gone into the heat period. Said Bonal: “For the past four days, Reeta and Rustam have been doing quite well. They have been kept together in the same enclosure and mating is taking place.” Delhi zoo had waited very long for the stork to visit the chimps. Only last year, before the new chimp was procured from Chandigarh, the zoo authorities tried to provide the couple with a more naturalistic environment. Their enclosure was upgraded and elaborately ‘furnished’ for them to loosen up. According to zoo officials, the ‘Chandigarh attraction’ was procured under the Breeding Loan Scheme among zoos wherein the first offspring will have to be handed over to the Chhatbir zoo.
Bamboo shoots trouble in Kerala (July Week 4 (2005)) Kerala is inching towards yet another environmental hazard as wild bamboo varieties have started blooming simultaneously in almost all forest tracts. This rare phenomenon is being witnessed after a long gap of 48 years. Large-scale flowering of different varieties of bamboosa bamboo is already being reported from Attapady, Ponmudi, Iravikulam, Pathanamthitta, Kothamangalam, Malayattoor, Wayanad, Idukki, Palakkad, Kasargod and the eastern parts of Kozhikode. Blooming and bearing fruit will mark the culmination of the life cycle of bamboo and after this phenomenon no bamboo forest will be left in the State. Hard days are also ahead for the adivasis and poor farmers who depend on bamboo for their livelihood. Wild animals too would be at risk. According to K K Seethalakshmi of the Kerala Forest Research Institute, it would take at least eight years of sustained revitalisation efforts to bring the bamboo forests back to their old glory. A total destruction of bamboo forests would force animals to move out in search of fodder and refuge, ultimately resulting in recurring human-wildlife conflicts. It would also render hundreds of low-income families engaged in various bamboo products jobless. The situation would badly affect the functioning of Kerala Bamboo Corporation and its products like Bamboo Plywood. Experts also warn that after the bamboo fruits are fully utilised, the rodents would turn to the nearby farms. Such a situation would land the marginal agricultural families living close to forests in near-starvation. “Nobody can prevent the blooming of bamboo. But we can regenerate them in the same localities. Only a systematic effort can dilute the adverse impacts,” says Seethalakshmi. However, the Forest Department is yet to develop any kind of strategy for replanting bamboo. The Department is also clueless about the problems which would be created by the dead bamboo in future as it would easily catch fire. It also has no idea on controlling the various pests that eat the new bamboo shoots.
Tiger population decline in Madhya Pradesh (July Week 4 (2005)) The latest tiger census figures show that the tiger population in the National Parks and Sanctuaries of Madhya Pradesh is 394 as against last year's 416. The difference between the two tiger census figures has put the State forest authorities in a tight corner. The question now doing the rounds is whether the last census figures were fudged and bloated or whether there has been a sharp decline in the population of tigers in the Protected Areas of the State. The official tiger census figures released last weekend show that there are 394 tigers in the Protected Areas of Madhya Pradesh. Last year's census had put the number of tigers in the same area as 416. The State Chief Wildlife Warden, Mr. Gangopadhayay said (Hindu, Monday, July 18, 2005) after last year's census, it was declared that there were six tigers in the Rani Durgawati Sanctuary and seven tigers in the Palpurkuno Sanctuary. The current census has revealed that there is not even a single tiger in these sanctuaries. The other forest officials also expressed concern over the decrease in the number of tigers in the State. There is a common view in forest circles here that the rapid fragmentation of habitat is a major danger when it comes to the survival of tigers.
Country’s first eco-friendly housing complex (July Week 4 (2005)) Kolkata will soon have country's first environmental friendly housing complex. A pilot project would build 25 houses of 1800 sq ft costing between Rs 38 and 40 lakh each. "The complex will be having 25 houses and one community centre. The unique feature of the complex is that all the houses will be eco friendly, energy efficient. They will generate their own solar power which will be integral part of the building itself. That is the uniqueness of the project," said Dr S P Ganchaudhury, Director, West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Authority (WBREDA) (Hindustan Times, Monday, July 18, 2005). The two storeyed buildings fitted with two kilowatt integrated solar photovoltaic systems, will ensure that power bills are almost halved. The housing complex would receive power from the West Bengal State Electricity Board and generation from the solar system would be transmitted to the grid. The interactive system will enable owners of the houses to sell off their extra electricity to the WBSEB and that will be adjusted in the electricity bills. The building itself will have solar passive architectural concept.and will generally be cool during the summer time and hot and more comfortable during the winters. Dr Ganchaudhury further added, "In many cities, cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, if 50 per cent of the people go for this type of thing, they can generate 500 to 600 mega watts of power in their roof. Of course this is the initial stage but I am sure that it will have a definite impact and in future lot of people will consider this type of energy generation or this type of building so that they will generate clean energy and at the same time they will do some energy business also. So that will be a unique thing and will create an impact on the society, the whole country itself." Also, an eco-friendly battery power bus would connect the complex to the metropolis. The project cost is estimated at Rs 5 crore with WBREDA providing the land. Work would commence from September and the project was expected to be completed by December 2006.
A solution to biomedical waste disposal (July Week 4 (2005)) An innovative plant that can manage biomedical waste in hospitals safely and cheaply has been developed by a team from the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT). It is an alternative to the incinerator and the deep-burial method followed in India, which are not recommended by the Stockholm Convention of 2002 and need to be phased out. Bio-reactors that combine engineering concepts and microbial intervention to reduce anatomical wastes quickly into liquid form makes treating of biomedical wastes easy and safe, said Dr AK Sabhapathy (The Pioneer, Monday, July 18, 2005), Patron of Qualified Private Medical Practioners Association (QPMPA). The research, financed by the QPMPA of Kerala, has successfully conducted trials in 14 hospitals across Kerala after developing a prototype and the results have proved that the method is quite effective and easy to operate. Highly hazardous and infectious biomedical waste comprising contaminated needles, human anatomical waste, waste from culture and laboratory, body fluids, plasters, discarded medicines, cotton and dressings continue to be dumped in the backyard of the hospitals. As a result of the absence of a waste management system, the unsegregated waste is piled in the hospital campus and thrown recklessly at the dumping sites, where the highly infectious medical waste gets mixed up with the domestic waste and makes the entire dump yard a hotbed of diseases like HIV, Hepatitis B, Leptospira, skin problems and allergies. According to QPMPA, a single bed in a hospital generates 1.1 kilogram of solid waste daily, of which only 10 per cent is infective. 150 millilitre of liquid waste is also generated per bed. Interestingly, most of the hospitals in India don't have any system for disposal of the biomedical waste. "The new system is also economical and the management of waste is done inside the hospital that reduces the danger from transportation," Dr Sabhapathy said. The four-stage plant costs only Rs 1.25 lakh and negligible expenses are needed to maintain the plant, he said. Emissions and effluent water from the plants were tested in laboratories and found to be well below the unsafe level. After approval from the Pollution Control Board, the plant and the technology would be patented. The Pollution Control Board insists on individual incinerators or common incinerator facility, which is highly dangerous for a densely populated State, Dr Sabhapathy said. Incineration is a dying technology and as a waste treatment technology, it is unreliable and produces a secondary waste stream more dangerous than the original. Individual incinerators in hospitals would cost Rs 14,00,000 and the daily expense would come close to Rs 400. Due to the cost factor, hospitals with a capacity of more than 200 beds only install the facility leaving the rest to contaminate the land, he said. Common incinerators also pose a threat as the waste needs to be transported and it may be a risk in Indian conditions. Deep burial is natural, but reports also show that in places with high rains and rising groundwater level, there is possibility of leaching leading to spread of disease agents.
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